Perhaps the ‘Dark Ages’ Can Enlighten Us to Think ‘Why Not?’

Perhaps the ‘Dark Ages’ Can Enlighten Us to Think ‘Why Not?’

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Instant Karma’s gonna get you,
Gonna knock you right on the head,
You better get yourself together,
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead.
John Lennon

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One of the dictionary definitions of karma is an “action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation.”

After my ALS diagnosis was rendered, and then confirmed, I went through the agonizing process of trying to understand why. Given that the causality remains a mystery, one is left with suppositional rabbit holes to explore. I needed something — be it a genetic defect, behavior, lifestyle choice, toxin exposure, or geographic anomaly — to regret. When nothing singularly plausible was forthcoming, I recounted every significant sin I had committed, questioning whether the cumulative tally might justify my newly dispensed punishment.

Eventually my desire for the “why” answer abated. I may never know the reason that ALS chose me. That’s OK. There are bigger fish to fry. By replacing the “why me?” with “why do I still have it?” my Holy Grail-like quest was redirected. On the surface, the lack of a cure appears reasonably obvious.

  • The complexity of the disease necessitates an immense research and development effort.
  • The anticipated profits don’t attract the required large-scale investment.
  • No one is willing to forgo personally profiting from the discovery. The days of a Jonas Salk type of heroically altruistic approach to disease eradication are long gone.
  • We are left with a scattered “catch-as-catch-can” approach to thwarting ALS.

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But I believe the inherent obstacle to be systemically much simpler to identify, yet paradoxically, far more challenging to overcome. As a society we accept ALS. Just like we do cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and any other condition that defies arrest. Culturally, we could demand that cures be found. And if we were serious, they would be. Just like we did when we decided to intervene in the wars in Europe, win the arms race, and land men on the moon. When America is truly determined and focused, the daunting is achieved, and even the seemingly impossible is made possible.

Pondering this notion of the collective tolerance made me recall a “Saturday Night Live” episode from 1978 that introduced the character Theodoric of York, played by Steve Martin. The skit was done twice, with the same premise. It was about a man working in a more primitive time, relying on superstitions, but the joke was that it was the most up-to-date technology available. The skits ended with Theodoric wrestling with enlightenment, whereby he would be on the cusp of changing the tack of humanity for the better, only to consider that too far-fetched.

My favorite of the two had Theodoric as a medieval barber. Medieval barbers were also the forerunners of today’s physicians. Liberally employing bloodletting, augmented by elixirs whose constituents might include powder of staghorn, gum arabic, sheep’s urine, and boar’s vomit, Theodoric would “practice” medicine. He would dutifully treat ailments caused by an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps brought on by a toad or a small dwarf living in the stomach, as indicated by the state-of-the-art diagnostic tool the Caladrius bird. The outcomes, like the age they spoofed, were hilariously dark. As were Theodoric’s aborted attempts at renaissance thinking.

Indulge me, as I borrow from SNL’s brilliance and morph into my version of TheodoRic(k), and explore a societal paradigm shift.

Maybe there is a way to heal the previously unhealable. What if we diverted a tiny portion of the U.S. discretionary spending request for 2020 of $1.4 trillion toward curing a heretofore mysterious neurological disease? What if we reallocated 1 percent of the 2019 military budget of $716 billion toward the effort? That would be $7 billion this year alone, and over $60 billion over 10 years, given our historical spending of $7 trillion from 2007 through 2017.

Then, when we identified the mechanism to restore health, we could export it around the world. Might that gesture serve to reduce tensions with other countries and ideologies, bolster sentiment toward the U.S., and safeguard the world order we attempt to influence? Is it possible to simultaneously lessen human suffering and reduce the need for defense? If so, wouldn’t it be wonderful for us to recapture the mystique and prestige of the Greatest Generation?

Naaaaahhh! Maybe I’ll think about it again tomorrow. Today I’ve got a Netflix series to binge watch. Ain’t life grand?!

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11 comments

  1. Richard Boka says:

    Hi Rick,

    I feel you, I have actually the same thoughts and conclusions. The means are there but the willing to take action is not. I myself got the diagnose on the 26th of February. The neurologist asked me “do do want your pills today”. I actually asked him if he had any experience of ALS patients and he told me yes…. He also checked his watch while we were talking.

    I wish you the best!

    Regards from Sweden/ Richard

  2. Dave Reckonin says:

    “What if we reallocated 1 percent of the 2019 military budget of $716 billion toward the effort? That would be $7 billion this year alone, and over $60 billion over 10 years, given our historical spending of $7 trillion from 2007 through 2017.”

    Rick, forget it, and get back to Netflix. You are showing the same infirm rationality on this subject that you show over the ‘God & Son Inc.’ subject.

    Fact is, The United States of Perpetual War will not divert any military budget to help you me or anyone else who might have ALS.

    Reason? There is just too much money to made by the Military Industrial Complex selling bombs and bullets.

    The business of the USA….. is war.

    You’d have thought that as the US lost the Vietnam War, lost the Afghanistan War and now lost the Syrian War, it would have learnt its lesson.
    But No.

    We now have the bogus creation of ‘meddling Russia’ for which the latest expensive hyperbaric bombs must be manufactured, and we must have the prospect of yet another country into which the toxically violent tentacles of the John Boltons and the Mike Pompeos intrude ie Venezuela.

    Let’s also not forget the sociopathic Dubya Bush (“God told me to invade Iraq.”)

    So, getting a hold of some of the Military Budget for ALS research is as big a dream as A Midsummer Night’s one.

    Stick to the lesser fantasy items on Netflix.

    • Rick Jobus says:

      Dave, while my comments about God are always sincere, I fear my attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor, relative to government spending, may have been lost on you.

      • Dave Reckonin says:

        Not lost on me at all …and I mark up my second insult of the week from you…You should drop the “I’ve been challenged with facts so I’ll retaliate with an insult” type of approach.
        It’s unbecoming of you.

        Your look at huge US Military spending and what would happen to ALS research if just some were diverted is perfectly valid and cogent, so take your tongue out of your cheek.

        Fact is- The US (ie Washington) loves war and the people of the US let the warmongers in Congress carry on waging to make money from death of other nations’ people.

        Your fervent religious position should be directed to the political perverts in Congress with an aim of getting swards turned to plough shares.

        Good luck with that one.

        Try to avoid the temptation to insult. You are bigger than that. Aren’t you Rick?

        • Rick Jobus says:

          Dave, no insult intended. I misunderstood your choice of words — “infirm rationality” — to describe my belief in God, to mean that I felt my farcical proposition about government spending was a possibility.

          Likewise, my use of the word “ranting” in response to your repeated requests that I provide an answer that, given my faith, I thought should have been obvious, was not meant as an insult. It was merely my observation that you were writing “ at length in an angry and impassioned way.”

          I respect your obvious intelligence, look forward to your comments, and know that we have far more in common than what separates us.

  3. Martina says:

    https://www.jpost.com/printarticle.aspx?id=507678

    This is a link to a news item from Israel regarding a possible reversal of ALS. This article was published in the Jerusalem Post October 17, 2017. Trials were to be held in the States regarding this breakthrough. We are now in 2019. Has anything come out since that post? any new revelations? or do these news items just disappear never to be heard of by the public. Please take look at that link and click on it to read exactly what is going on. Perhaps we can have some investigative journalist take the task of following up on the research that we hear about initially and then never hear from again.

  4. CD says:

    It would be great if we stick together and make it happen. there’s no reason why the citizens of this great country should not influence the
    government to use the money wisely to heal the suffering,
    Cari

  5. Bob Jones says:

    Um, maybe look at the spending on HIV. I hate to be politically incorrect, but year after year they get far more NIH money than most diseases.

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